Bay Area Couple Fights to Stop Cargill, Save the Bay

Gail Raabe and Matt Leddy are leading the charge to preserve the baylands, specifically from Cargill’s attempt to develop over a thousand acres of salt pond

As Bay Area natives, Gail Raabe and Matt Leddy both grew up hiking, bird watching and appreciating the beauty of the bay.

Though they met in graduate school at San Francisco State University, they didn’t start dating until they ran into each other years later when they were both working as scientists at the California Academy of Sciences.

They both took an interest in environmental activism in 1982 after Mobil Oil announced plans to develop Bair Island, located in the bay near Whipple Avenue. The project was approved by the City Council of Redwood City, but for Raabe and Leddy, these plans represented a major concern both for recreation opportunities and wildlife.

As a result, they put a citizens referendum on the ballot and successfully campaigned to overturn the previous city council approval of Mobil’s plans.

As newcomers to activism, Raabe and Leddy were encouraged by their early success.

“To succeed in your first effort is inspirational,” says Raabe.

Now, the couple has a new project: fighting back against Cargill’s plans to develop as many as 1,436 acres of salt marshes.

Cargill’s original plans to develop an area south of Redwood Shores included plans for 30,000 new residents, according to Raabe, who stresses that her opposition to the project is about more than solely saving wildlife.

“This is a quality of life issue,” she said. “There are traffic impacts and water safety issues.”

In addition, tidal marshes provide a means to filter pollutants and sequester carbon, she added.

Raabe cites a 1999 report about the baylands eco-system stating that 100,000 acres of tidal marshes are needed for a healthy bay, while currently there are only 40,000 such acres.

Cargill has since ; however, Raabe expressed concern that a new plan may include small concessions for public relations purposes while still making a similar move to destroy the marsh space.

Given the high unemployment rate of 8.5 percent in the Bay Area, Raabe understands that many may see her opposition to Cargill’s development as being ‘anti-jobs’.

“When you look at the economic picture, it’s not a question of do we develop or do we not develop, rather, it’s a question of where we develop,” she said, insisting that she supports development elsewhere, such as in with accessible public transportation.

In addition, Raabe points out that the eco-system of the Bay Area is a major draw for workers.

“I think the beautiful scenery and recreation opportunities are a big reason why we live here,” she says.

Despite the couple’s past successes, Raabe stressed the need for more community members to get involved in ‘Save the Bay’ efforts.  

“This is definitely a ‘David versus Goliath’ battle,” said Raabe.

“It’s going to take the sustained support of the entire community.”


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Buck Shaw August 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Gail, your support of the Municiple Transportation Authoritys "One Bay Area Plan" will not help your efforts to Support the Baylands. They are in direct opposition to each other. One Bay Area wants those "Stack and Pack housing on the tidelands. They consider it as Biking and walking distance to Transite. Or at the very least EV distance. Your fighting a $218 Billion thats Billion dollar funding to the Transite Authority. Good luck on your efforts. I support the baylands also but the "Plan" has worked its way into every form of Bay area Government. Zoning being one of the most obvious...
Reality Check August 28, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Paranoid and misinformed-sounding Mr. Shaw was clumsily referring to the ongoing "One Bay Area" collaborative planning effort headed up by a consortium of four regional agencies: Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). In that it seeks, among other things, to promote smart (vs. dumb) growth, it would seem to dovetail nicely with efforts of individuals and groups working to prevent developers or corporations from paving the Bay (http://dontpavemybay.org) in Redwood City, or anywhere else around the Bay Area. To find out more about One Bay Area visit http://www.onebayarea.org
Matt Leddy August 29, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I want to thank Patch and Adam Swart for continuing to cover this important Redwood City issue. As I told Adam, while Matt and I are featured in the video, community members like Ralph Nobles and many others have done as much, and more, to protect Redwood City's baylands. Gail
Sandra Cooperman August 29, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Thanks for the additional comment regarding the Redwood baylands article. Without Ralph and Carolyn Nobles foresight, Bair Island would be another Redwood Shores.


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